WWF reacts to 2020 rhino poaching figures in South Africa | WWF South Africa

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WWF reacts to 2020 rhino poaching figures in South Africa

We welcome the news of a 33% reduction in the number of rhinos lost to poaching in South Africa in 2020 and ongoing decline in the number of rhinos lost annually to poaching over the last six years.

However, we are very aware that the apparent reprise provided by lockdown restrictions in 2020 was only a temporary pause and that the pressure on our rhino populations, particularly in Kruger National Park, remains very high.

At the same time, we note the decline of almost 70% in the number of rhinos in the Kruger National Park over the last ten years due to a combination of drought and poaching (as reflected in the recent SANParks 2019/20 annual report).

The situation could be far worse, were it not for the hard work and dedication of our rangers and other law enforcement officials in state, private and community-owned parks to prevent, detect and prosecute wildlife crimes in the field and apprehend suspected poachers.

In order to amplify these efforts on the ground and fully turn the numbers around, we need to address the factors that enable transnational crime syndicates to operate.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy referenced the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) which prioritises the need for collaboration to break the illicit value chain of wildlife trafficking. We look forward to the formal approval of this strategy and investment in the skills, equipment, tools and resources to fully bring it to life.

Corruption goes hand in hand with organised crime networks and continues to undermine the last decade of implementation of various strategies to combat rhino poaching in South Africa. There needs to be focussed attention on rooting out corrupt individuals who facilitate these crimes.

In addition, we need to address the factors known to cause criminal behaviour to proliferate locally, driven by lack of local opportunities, high levels of inequality and breakdowns in social norms and values in societies around our conservation areas.

Dr Jo Shaw, Senior Manager Wildlife Programme, WWF South Africa, commented: “To stop rhino poaching, we need to address the factors that enable wildlife trafficking syndicates to operate. We must ensure skills, equipment, tools and resources are dedicated to fully implementing an approved National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking. We must commit to root out corruption which continues to jeopardise efforts to break the illicit value chain for rhino horn. At the same time, we need to address the factors known to cause criminal behaviour to proliferate locally, such as lack of opportunities, high levels of inequality and breakdowns in social norms and values.”

The white rhino is listed by the IUCN as endangered.

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